The Christmas Blog Edition - Usual end of the year analysis and a saffron and chocolate star bread to set the tone for the next year
It's that time of the year again. Where we sit down and look back on the prior twelve months, do some soul searching, analyse, figure out where we were when it started and where did we get to now it ends. Another year is put behind us, and what have we to account for it? Seems like the whole universe demand we do this exercise and take stock. What were we blessed with? What failed? How much have we achieved? Did we fulfill our goals? How far have we come, how much success did we amass? A futile exercise that tends to leave us all feeling frustrated, small, insignificant losers who can only fail.
Contemporary culture and modern day society demands we succeed. On every little thing we strive to achieve, we must get nothing short of world wide success. Any less and you have failed. Any less and you do not count, in the grand scheme of things. It also teaches that for you to succeed you must beat your competition. Undermine your rivals. Kill the enemy. And all of a sudden, everyone becomes a probable rival. Enter cut-throat competition, a world of backstabbing, and individuals who will shudder at nothing to make sure they stay ahead of the game. While burying anyone they think stands in their way. This only leads to jealousy and envy. Leading to certain behaviours that are becoming the norm, more and more. It's beginning to be consideral normal, that kind of attitude. Undermine the efforts of others so they don't get any notice. All the while claiming to be an enlightened person, a being of pure good will. This is a time where people have created a fake persona they actually believe to be real.
I have taken a look back on this past year, and all I got out of it. I did a re-read of this blog, actually, just to get a little taste of it. And frankly, what I came out with was the impression that this was a terribly hard year. A year that was filled with frustration on my part. A year filled with bitterness and disappointment. It's not really true, but it isn't a lie either. I did feel frustrated. I did feel disappointed, and dispirited and discouraged. I felt disenchanted a lot of the time, mainly about this blog. It was a year hard for blogging. A year I have felt very much ignored, invisible, without a voice. But also a year that made me realise this should not be my main occupation, but a fun hobby, another creative vent - I do consider myself to be a highly creative person who needs various outlets. This year has seen me go from three posts a week to two posts and only one post a week lately. And I am happier for it. Blogging wise, I am happier for it. I came to a point where it still does frustrate and hurt me that even though some days this blog has so many page views, the comments are nearly unexisting. It does annoy. But less and less every day.
The same for people who used to be in my life and made me feel inappropriate all the time. Made me feel alone in a room crowded with their presence. I have been putting a lot of space between me and those people, lately, not only last year. But some habits die hard and a few of them have remained. A tie has been severed this year, a tie that was mainly kept out of habit only, regarding someone who was never there for me despite my efforts in being for her all she needed, every time. I failed, at a certain very hard moment in her life, I failed to be there as much as she needed me to, I failed to be the person she needed me to be, mea culpa all of it, I am well aware. Because I was going through a personal hell at the time too, and I just did not have the energy and the strength in me to give her everything as I had been doing before. She never forgave me for it, my actions severed something between us, killed her friendship for me and we grew apart. This year, she severed the last remaining tie. It hurt, but I'm glad she did it, because I would never have been strong enough to do it. This is someone I loved as if she were a sister but who constantly failed me when I needed support, when I needed company, a friend, someone to let me know I was not such a shitty person after all. She never did. I am grateful she had the clarity of mind to cast me out of her life for good, really.
So it was not a bleak year, in the end. I noticed some patterns of behaviour forming in me and was able to stop them before I allowed myself to go too far. I noticed how I was allowing others to make me feel miserable and managed to try and grab a hold of it before it escalated. I still got hurt by words and actions but instead of feeling down and sad for a couple of months, I was down and sad for twenty four hours. It's a huge milestone, trust me. And there were a lot of achievements this past year. Hell, I wrote, edited, published, marketed, advertised four whole novels. By myself. That's huge - despite the possible lack of quality in my work, that's not the point. I even managed to get a few sales this past year. I actually made some money out of writing, I'm sorry but how cool is that? It does make me feel I have accomplished a hell of a lot this past year. I never got anything out of blogging, but all of a sudden I did get royalties for my novels that even allowed me to get my family a few little tokens. I don't think you can imagine how special this feels. So, yeah, I do believe I have had a fairly successful year. And I can only enter 2018 with the hopes of achieving even more milestones.
One of the milestones was this saffron start bread I put into my mind I needed to tackle. I was afraid of effing the whole thing up, but it actually came out looking pretty good. And the taste was particularly delicious. I did my own take on Eva's recipe and do urge you to see her post for how to form the star, and also took a long read at Paula's version. It's a far, far easier bread than what I expected and I'm sure I will want to try other fillings sometime soon. Here's my recipe:
For the filling:
- 125 gr butter
- 150 gr light brown sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 heaped tbs raw cocoa powder
- 1 pinch salt
- 1/4 tsp instant coffee powder
- 1 cup frozen red berries
- 1/2 tsp saffron threads
- 2 tbsp + 1 tsp light brown sugar
- 60 ml milk
- 100 gr spelt flour
- 220 gr flour
- 8 gr fresh yeast
- 125 ml lukewarm water
- 75 gr butter
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 egg beaten with milk or water for glazing
Start on the filling. Place the butter, the cocoa, the sugar, coffee and salt in a food processor. Blitz until it comes together and you have some sort of spread. Set aside.
Now that tweny minutes have elapsed, line a baking tray with parchment paper, bring the dough balls out and place a sheet of parchment paper on your counter. Roll one of the balls into a circular disk over it, transfer it onto the baking tray and spread the cocoa butter filling over it and scatter a few red berries, leaving a border on the outside. Now roll the second ball of dough, place it on top of the first one and spread the filling and the red berries just as you did before. Do the same for the third ball of dough, finishing off the filling and the red berries. Finally, roll the last ball of dough and place it on top of the others. This final layer has no filling, it's sort of the lid.
To form the star, I urge you to watch Eva's video, but it's a question of taking out a circular jar lid that is about 8cm diameter - or a round cookie cutter of the same size - and place it lightly on top of the final dough disk, right at the center. With a very sharp knife cut sixteen equal-sized slices leaving the center intact. Now work two by two with those slices, twisting outside two at a time and pinching the ends together. Set the star aside to proof at room temperature for 40 minutes. Pre-heat your oven at 200º, whisk the egg with a drizzle of milk or water and brush the star with this egg wash. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until the star is puffy and golden. Allow to cool before serving. It's one of the best things ever!!!